On October 12, the results were released from the SSMU Fall 2018 referendum, a ballot that was released to students to vote on certain key issues that concern them in the coming year. Several of the measures passed were small additions to student fees, including fees for Charity, Plate Club, Environment, and the Arab Student Network.
The motion entitled “Motion Regarding Renaming of McGill’s Men’s Varsity Teams,” was also passed. This motion follows the protest held on October 30 and subsequent campaigning to change the Redmen name, which is viewed by many as derogatory towards Indigenous people. Others maintain that the name is not rooted in racial stereotyping.
27.9% of eligible voters participated in the referendum. 9.6% of participating voters abstained from the Motion. Of those who voted, 78.8% voted in favour of changing the Redmen name, with 21.2% voting “No.”
“This vote demonstrates that our student body values the lived experiences of Indigenous students, and is willing to work towards the creation of a safe and respectful school environment,” explained representatives of SSMU, including protest coordinator and SSMU Indigenous Affairs coordinator Tomas Jirousak, in an email sent out to students on the same day as the referendum results were released. “Indigenous voices have clearly expressed the desire to change the Redmen name, which should have been enough for McGill to take substantive action in changing the name. But it wasn’t. By adding our voices in solidarity we hope the University finally takes concrete action in listening to Indigenous students. McGill must take concrete steps in listening to Indigenous students.”
As representatives of the student body, SSMU has the power to express student concerns and values to the university, but as students themselves, SSMU does not have within itself the power to officially change the name. That is up to the administration.
“Tomorrow, and every day after it, we, as SSMU members, will continue to take every step necessary until McGill acknowledges the damage that the Redmen name has done, and addresses those damages by, first of all, changing it,” the email continues, “This vote is not the end of our campaign. This vote is simply a means to an end. This vote is only the beginning.”
It is now up to the administration to decide whether or not to change the name. In order to do this, a Working Group on Principles of Commemoration and Renaming was established last year. Its final report is scheduled to be released next month.
So, if this measure does officially pass with the administration, what will the name be changed to? Perhaps “Martlet,” to match with the Women’s Varsity team name? Or perhaps something entirely new? Either way, the student body has made their voice heard, and the Redmen name might be on its way out.
An earlier version of this article stated “27.9% of eligible voters participated in the referendum, and 78.8% voted in favour of changing the Redmen name, with 21.2% voting “No”, and 9.6% choosing to abstain.” This article has been edited to clarify that 9.6% of partipating voters abstained from the Motion, with the remaining voters being counted towards the percentages.